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Why Covid-19’s Impact on Health Is a Long-Term Worry

1. What are the persistent ailments?

Surveys and preliminary research indicate the most commonly reported include fatigue, breathlessness, headache, insomnia, chest pain, joint pain, coughing, loss of taste and smell, intermittent fevers and skin rashes. Less frequently, hearing problems, “brain fog,” mental-health problems and hair loss have been reported, though these have yet to be confirmed by studies. Besides these general symptoms, specific organ dysfunction has been reported, involving primarily the heart, lungs, and brain — even among those whose acute infection led to no discernible symptoms. But the science is still evolving and there’s no consensus yet on a clinical definition for long, or post-acute, Covid.

It probably increases with the severity of the initial bout of Covid-19. For instance, two-thirds of patients who had mild-to-moderate Covid-19 reported at least one persistent symptom 60 days after falling ill, according to a French study that followed 150 non-critical patients from March to June. A similarly sized study of older, more seriously ill hospital patients in Italy found 87% had at least one symptom, particularly fatigue and shortness of breath, an average of two months later. A survey in the U.S. found 35% of patients who weren’t hospitalized had not returned to normal health as long as three weeks after testing positive. Among 18-to-34-year-olds with no chronic medical conditions, the figure was 19%.

3. How big a problem is this?

We don’t know yet because Covid-19 is a new disease. Researchers haven’t studied enough patients over a long enough period of time to know what the full range of long-term effects, or sequelae, might be. Nor do they know what proportion of patients will suffer from them or for how long. The uncertainties have sometimes led to what so-called long haulers describe as medical gaslighting by health professionals who don’t take their complaints seriously, especially if the patient is a woman. Early findings and the demand for specialized post-Covid clinics to help survivors deal with scarred lungs, chronic heart damage, post-viral fatigue and other debilitating conditions indicate a significant prevalence. The social and economic impact would be magnified if people end up enduring years or decades of coronavirus-related disability. Some researchers say the pandemic may spur chronic fatigue syndrome, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME, and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.

4. Do other viruses cause prolonged illness?

Yes. Post-viral syndromes occur after many viral infections, including the common cold, influenza, HIV, infectious mononucleosis, measles and hepatitis B. Diabetes and other long-term consequences were observed in survivors of severe acute respiratory syndrome, which is caused by a related coronavirus. A Canadian study found 21 health-care workers from Toronto had post-viral symptoms for as long as three years after catching SARS in 2003, and were unable to return to their usual work. Some people who were hospitalized with SARS in Hong Kong still had impaired lung function two years later, a study of 55 patients published in 2010 found. Still, it’s not known yet whether the lessons of SARS are applicable to Covid-19.

UW Medicine Examines The Coronavirus’s Long-Term Effects

SEATTLE, WA — The University of Washington School of Medicine is helping lead a nationwide study, aiming to learn why some COVID-19 patients experience prolonged symptoms.

One of the researchers is Kelli O’Laughlin, a UW Medicine professor and emergency room physician, who says she has seen some former COVID-19 patients later return to the hospital experiencing severe fatigue and shortness of breath.

“We want to understand the long-term effects of COVID-19 and the ongoing impact it has on people’s lives,” O’Laughlin said. “We are still trying to understand which lingering symptoms are to be expected, how long they will remain and what is causing them.”

Nikki Gentile, another UW professor, said the same trend in “long-haulers” has been also noted by primary care doctors.

“We are seeing a lot of previously healthy, active patients presenting to primary care clinics with shortness of breath, fatigue, decreased exercise tolerance, diminished sense of taste or smell, and/or new or worsening anxiety or depression several weeks, or even months post-COVID-19 infection,” Gentile said.

The New York Times recently reported that some estimates indicate 1 in 3 coronavirus survivors suffer prolonged symptoms. The new two-year study hopes to illuminate why that might be happening across various age groups.

The research, funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will allow UW medical experts to keep tabs on participants who contracted the virus and closely follow their recovery path. Recruitment for the study began on Oct. 1 and will analyze thousands of COVID-19 cases across the nation.

Learn more about the INSPIRE research project online.

This article originally appeared on the Seattle Patch

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Long-term use of acid reflux meds linked to 24% increase in diabetes: study

Long-term, regular use of medications to treat acid reflux was linked to a 24% increased risk of type 2 diabetes, says a new study.

The findings, by joint first authors Jinqiu Yuan and Qiangsheng He with The Seventh Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University in Shenzhen, China, were published Tuesday in the journal Gut.

These commonly used medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) work by “inhibiting certain stomach cells from ‘pumping’ acid into the stomach,” reports Harvard Medical School.

While PPIs are generally deemed safe for short-term use, prolonged use may introduce health concerns like bone fractures from calcium malabsorption and enteric (intestinal) infections, among other adverse effects.

Long-term use of medications to treat acid reflux was linked to a 24% increased risk of type 2 diabetes, per a new study. (iStock)

Long-term use of medications to treat acid reflux was linked to a 24% increased risk of type 2 diabetes, per a new study. (iStock)

ARTIFICIAL PANCREAS MAINTAINED BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS IN CHILDREN WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES, STUDY SAYS

PPIs were said to have a “major impact on gut microbiome,” which could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, though the evidence is still unclear.

The risk was said to increase along with longer duration of use. Researchers found that the association was stronger among those with a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) or normal blood pressure.

“For patients who have to receive long-term PPI treatment, screening for abnormal blood glucose and type 2 diabetes is recommended,” study authors wrote.

WHY CAN’T HUMANS DIGEST CORN?

The findings were drawn from an analysis of nearly 205,000 participants of three U.S. cohorts, Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), NHS II and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), which revealed an increased risk even after adjusting for risk factors; “the absolute risk of diabetes among regular PPI users was 7.44/1000 person-years compared with 4.32/1000 person-years among non-users,” authors wrote.

“Owing to its wide usage, the overall number of diabetes cases associated with PPI use could be considerable,” authors concluded, adding that doctors should balance the risk-benefit ratio when prescribing PPIs for long-term use.

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